Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The ideal sleeping spot

click on image for a HI-rez view

tip number 93

The traditional camper doesn’t need to worry about finding a nice flat spot to sleep. They just hike to a heavily impacted designated site that’s already pounded flat. Then (after they set up their tent) they just unroll their porky full length inflatable pad, fill a stuff sack with all the clothes they take off and use this as their pillow. Then they climb into their beefy sleeping bag. If there is something lumpy under them, no worries, they can pad it with extra gear in their tent, like their bulky pile vest.

The UL camper needs to think before sleeping.

I am 6 feet tall, and about 18 inches wide, so I need a flat spot that matches those specifications, and NOTHING more. That’s pretty easy to find even in the lumpiest parts of our planet. This means you are essentially able to sleep pretty much ANYWHERE. You are no longer burdened by the traditional needs of a porky tent. Please be aware, there are regulations in place in most popular camping areas, know these rules before you set out. Also, it is considered a courtesy to camp well away from trails, away from lakes and streams and out of other camper’s majestic views.

There is an uncomplicated methodology that can be employed to test flatness of any potential sleeping zone. Simply lie down in the desired spot, you’ll know right away if it’s lumpy or tilted. This is a foolproof technique and I advocate it emphatically. Alas, this overtly simple trick is unknown to most campers. If you are with partner, both of you should lie down side by side.

If you want a little extra comfort, find a spot with a very slight dip at your hips, so your tired butt can get cradled by the loving embrace of mother Earth.

And if you are using just a really thin pad, add a simple little doughnut made from closed-cell sleeping pad foam. This can be positioned under your hip bone if you are a side sleeper. Okay, you’ve picked your spot, tested it for flatness by lying down.

While you are still on the ground, fastidiously mark out the four corners of your rectangle with some sticks or rocks. This way you can still visualize it when you stand up, and you can erect your tarp to precisely cover that zone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

summer backpacking / guided education

Ultralight Superstar, Andrew Skurka

Just a heads up for folks, this summer I'll be teaching in the mountains for Andrew Skurka Guides. I'm honored to part of the team! I've worked with Andrew in the mountains he's the real deal! He's the driving force behind a set of guided trips throughout the lower-48 this summer and fall. There are two formats for 2012, a series of 3-day Ultimate Hiking Courses, and a set of more ambitious 7-day Wilderness Adventure Courses.

These trips will be run at a very high standard, focusing on very advanced skills and techniques of lightweight expeditioning.

There is a direct link to the site in the side-bar.

As it's set up right now, I'll be working in the Gros Ventre Range just east of Jackson Hole. There will be three separate 7-day trips, all running in July of 2012, the schedule is linked HERE.

There's a chance I'll be working a few other trips in 2012, but the details haven't been finalized. I'll keep you posted.

I've been posting a lot about Andrew recently. That's because I've been reading his book and communicating with him about the upcoming guiding season.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


There is an interview where I share stuff about the book at Backpacking-Light on-line magazine. I talk about the book as well as promote an upcoming Tip-of-the-Week on This book is a nice fit with the content of the web-site.

TIP number 5

Self portrait

It’s okay to be nerdy
I am living proof of this credo. I delight in the quirky problem solving required when wrestling with all the minutia of my pack-weight. I encourage you to dig deep and fully accept your inner nerd. It’s okay to obsess about a half an ounce, I encourage that attitude! I enjoy using my finely crafted do-it-yourself gear in the mountains.

Please know, I fully recognize how dorky all this can be, and I acknowledge that I fit every stereotype of the weirdo zealot. But it’s fun, and fun counts for a lot. I take great pride wearing my home-made rain skirt with a team of burly men!

TIP number 26

Care of the equipment

This is a skill, and like any other skill it can be developed and perfected. It’s no different than setting up a tarp on a windy conditions or reading a map, it is a skill.

I’ve had dubious traditional campers hold certain UL items in their hand and they’ll scoff (with venomous contempt) informing me that it’s simply too flimsy to stand up to the hellish rigors of camping in the mountains. That’s not true. There is a surprisingly simple technique I employ to maintain my gear and avoid unnecessary wear and tear, and it’s easily summed up in three words: I am careful.

The traditional camper has an arsenal of cordura, ballistic nylon and steel. No need to carefully set their pack down, they can just drop that formidable beast - and then sit on it! Not so with the UL gear.

Everything in the UL campers quiver is dainty, true enough. But, the perception is that the stuff is so flimsy that it’s unreliable, and some will even say unsafe! I am ever mindful of my gear and it’s limitations, and I make sure to treat it with loving kindness.

Also - I do NOT sit on my pack.